Week 4 Game Preview - Empire at Destroyers
arting off the 2019 season with a 3-0 record and taking sole possession of first place, the Empire took care of business on the road in Philadelphia last Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The game was a back and forth shootout all night, but the Soul defense could not stop the Empire offense as Albany came out on top, 57-48. Next up for the Empire is another road game, this one against a winless Columbus Destroyers team who Albany handled at home in Week One. Kickoff will be at 7:00 p.m. in the Nationwide Arena on Saturday, May 18 and broadcast live on MY4 Albany, ESPN 3, and Alt 105.7 FM.
The first matchup to come into play is the crowd noise from Destroyer fans. This will be the Destroyers' first home game of the season and also the first Arena Football game played at the Nationwide Arena since the team ceased operations in 2008. When the team first existed between 2004-2008, the arena would be packed with upwards of 14,000 fans making it a hostile environment for any opponent. Albany faced a tough test in Philadelphia a week ago in front of nearly 10,000 fans and prevailed with a victory. If the Empire can find ways to quiet the crowd, it will bode well in Albany's favor once the final buzzer sounds.
The key to an Empire victory in this matchup is to get ahead and never look back. What's the best way to quiet an opposing crowd? Score. Having scored the third most points in the League with 128 total through the team's first three games, Albany has the ability to put up points on any offensive play. Last week against the Soul, Albany scored on every single possession, completely taking the crowd out of the game at times. If the Empire can get ahead early and stay ahead all game long, the crowd will be less enthused and not energize the Destroyers.
The next matchup to lookout for is between the Empire's top ranked scoring defense against the Destroyers' lowest-ranked scoring offense. Through three games, Albany has allowed a League-low 94 combined points. On the opposite side of the coin, the Destroyers have only scored 84 total points in their first three games, all losses. In the Week One matchup between Albany and Columbus, the Empire allowed a mere 19 points, a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a game and cruised to an easy victory. With two interceptions, two sacks, a fumble recovery, and forcing two turnovers on downs, Albany stifled Columbus and kept them from gaining any momentum on offense. If the Empire defense can continue to be as dominant as they have been through the first three games, life will be very difficult for the Destroyer offense in their home opener.
The key to victory in this matchup is for Albany to force turnovers. As mentioned above, the Empire turned Columbus over multiple times in their first matchup and must do so again in this game to come out on top. Albany has two players with a couple of interceptions already on the season, Terence Moore and Arkeith Brown. Look for these two to ballhawk all night long and even come away with interception number three on the season. The Destroyers are led by Rookie quarterback, Grant Russell, who has been a bright spot for the winless team. Russell entered the game late against Albany in Week One but has been the starter ever since. On the season, the rookie has totaled eight passing touchdowns to just two interceptions, while also adding another 30 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The dual threat quarterback provides a much-needed spark to the Columbus offense and has proven that he can turn any play into positive yardage or even a score. Albany needs to find a way to slow him down and force turnovers to get the Empire's high-powered offense on the field as much as possible.
The final matchup and key to victory for the Empire is to win on special teams. Despite starting 0-3, another bright spot for the Destroyers has been on special teams, particularly with rookie kick returner Fabian Guerra. In two games, Guerra has racked up 134 return yards and one touchdown on just four returns. The electrifying rookie has the ability to take any kickoff to the house for six, but at the very least can set his offense up with great field position on any return. Albany needs to find a way to contain him on returns and limit his yardage to force the rookie-led Columbus offense into poor starting field positions. On the other side, Empire receiver DJ ephens has provided a much-needed improvement in the return game from a season ago. In his first year in Albany, ephens already finds himself second in the League in return yards with 158. The shifty receiver always seems to find a whole and expects to break loose on every return. Similar to Guerra, ephens will be looking to pick up some additional yardage on the return game, making life easier for the Empire offense when they take the field.
Fans can secure season tickets for the Albany Empire by calling 518-533-2200, by going to TheAlbanyEmpire.com, or by stopping by the Empire office located in the Times Union Center. A limited number of great seats are still available! Want to bring your organization to a game, fundraise, or perform on the field? Group experiences are now on sale. Call 518-533-2200 for additional information.
Albany Empire 2019 Season Presented By CDPHP.
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Arena Football League Stories from May 15, 2019
- Week 4 Game Preview - Empire at Destroyers - Albany Empire
- Week 4 Game Preview - Blackjacks vs Brigade - Atlantic City Blackjacks
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